|1 John Chapter 1|
MY PERSONAL COMMENTARY
THE BOOK OF FIRST JOHN
By David L. Hannah
1 John 1:1
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;
* That which was from the beginning, *
The Zondervan NIV Bible Library [Zondervan] says,
“The reader is clearly pointed back to John 1:1—‘In the beginning was the Word’–and from there to Gen 1:1—‘In the beginning God’–with this difference: The Gospel deals with the ‘personal word’ of God’s eternity and his entrance into time. The letter centers on the life heard and in turn proclaimed (cf. Acts 5:20; Phil 2:16). This message is from the beginning because it is of God. It precedes creation, time, and history. But in God the message of life also draws near to humanity and finds its culmination in Jesus. In him the Word of life becomes incarnated, manifested, and hence can be seen, touched, and even handled.”
The UBS New Testament Handbook [UBS] comments,
“The use of from serves to indicate that the Word not only appeared at the moment mentioned (as expressed by ‘in the beginning,’ Gen 1:1; John 1:1), but that it has existed and been active ever since. Thus the period concerned reaches from the earliest point of time to the present; hence, ‘from of old’ in one version. Compare also such a rendering of the clause as, ‘which has always existed’ (Phillips).”
Robertson sees it this way,
“The reference goes beyond the Christian dispensation, beyond the Incarnation, to the eternal purpose of God in Christ (John 3:16), ‘coeval in
some sense with creation’ (Wescott).”
Barnes sees this a little differently,
“The sense may be this: ‘Whatever there was respecting the Word of life, or him who is the living Word, the incarnate Son of God, from the very beginning, from the time when he was first manifested in the flesh; whatever there was respecting his exalted nature, his dignity, his character, that could be subjected to the testimony of the senses, to be the object of sight, or hearing, or touch, that I was permitted to see, and that I declare to you respecting him.’”
He goes on to say,
“If this be the correct interpretation, then the phrase ‘from the beginning’ (ap’ arches) does not here refer to his eternity, or his being in the beginning of all things, as the phrase ‘in the beginning’ (en arche) does in John 1:1; but rather means from the very commencement of his manifestation as the Son of God, the very first indications on earth of what he was as the Messiah.”
John uses the expression “from the beginning” nine times in this Epistle, one time in his second Epistle, one time in his third Epistle, and four times in the Gospel of John, for a total of fifteen times. With the two exceptions of when he’s referred to the devil as sinning “from the beginning” (1 John 3:8), and as being a murderer “from the beginning” (John 8:44), it appears to me that he’s using the expression to refer to the beginning of “grace and truth” (John 1:17) arriving in the person of Jesus Christ. Following is a list of those uses of this expression:
1) Jesus knew “from the beginning” who would not believe in Him, and who would betray Him (John 6:64).
2) Jesus said He was Who He told them He was “from the beginning” (John 8:25).
3) Jesus said the disciples had been with Him “from the beginning” (John 15:27).
4) John reminds his readers about an old commandment that they had had “from the beginning” (1 John 2:7).
5) In that same verse, John adds that they had heard that old commandment “from the beginning” (! John 2:7).
6) John writes to those he refers to as “fathers” because they had known Him that is “from the beginning” (1 John 2:13).
7) John again addresses the “fathers” because they had know Him that is “from the beginning” (1 John 2:14).
8) Concerning the Truth that Jesus is the Christ (1 John 2:22) John instructs his readers to let that Truth abide in them that they had heard “from the beginning” (1 John 2:24).
9) John wrote that they would continue in the Son, and in the Father, if the Truth remained in them that they heard “from the beginning” (1 John 2:24).
10) He also wrote that loving one another was the message that they heard “from the beginning” (1 John 3:11).
11) John also said in his second Epistle that loving one another was the commandment that they had had “from the beginning” (2 John 1:5).
12) John also said that love was walking in the commandment that they had heard “from the beginning” (2 John 1:6).
Without a question all of the examples in the above list, with the possible exception of numbers 1, 6, and 7, refer to the beginning of the Christian faith that was introduced to us through the life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ, or to the beginning of the Christian faith in the individual believers at the time of their conversions.
I think a strong case could be made for numbers 6 and 7 also referring to that “beginning.” In other words, John could be saying to the “fathers” that they were there “from the beginning” of the Christian faith, meaning that they were old men who had personally seen Jesus. If that’s the case he’s essentially saying to them, “You ‘fathers’ know that I’m telling you the Truth because you were there also,” instead of, as most Commentators would say, “You are spiritual ‘fathers’ because you have become intimately acquainted with the Lord Jesus through the process of spiritual growth.”
I think it’s also quite possible that number 1 is also referring to this “beginning.” If that’s the case, then even though Jesus, as all-knowing God, had know from “in the beginning” (John 1:1), as man He had known “from the beginning” exactly who would not believe in Him, and who would betray Him. In other words He’s expressing this Truth from the human perspective.
I agree with Barnes’ notes above. I’m personally convinced that John’s expression of “from the beginning” (current verse) intentionally differs from his expression of “in the beginning” (John 1:1) as to what “beginning” is being referred to. I think that, with the exception of the devil sinning “from the beginning” (1John 3:8), in this Epistle John consistently uses this expression to point his readers to the arrival of God to earth in the form of man, and in the person of Christ Jesus.
Having stated my opinion concerning this phrase, “from the beginning,” allow me to state two facts:
1) I’m not arriving at this conclusion because I don’t believe that Jesus has been, is, and will always be eternally God. I absolutely do! I agree with all the doctrine stated by Commentators regarding this expression, I simply don’t believe that that’s John’s intention in this verse. However, it’s most certainly his intention when he writes “in the beginning” (John 1:1).
2) I might be wrong! I’m not a Theologian. I’m not as knowledgeable about the many facets of Theology as they are. I have so much respect for them. However, that doesn’t mean that I simply accept, as fact, everything they say. If they have the same perspective as the Apostle Paul had then they will see that as a positive (Acts 17:11; 2 Tim 2:7). Even Theologians don’t agree on everything. In this case Barnes states an opinion that’s different from the majority of the others, and I agree with him.
As we might all agree, “That which was from the beginning,” is definitely referring to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. The only point of disagreement is to rather John is saying, in this verse, with this expression, “from the beginning,” that the One Who was “from the beginning” of creation itself (already existing with the Father before creation began, which is absolute Biblical Truth) has now manifested Himself to us in human flesh; or is saying that Jesus, “from the beginning” of the entrance of “grace and truth” (John 1:17) into the world, through the revelation of Himself as Man, has manifested Life to us (1 John 1:2). If the latter is true, then he’s telling us that Life only truly began with the arrival of the Lord Jesus, because until then we were all dead in sin (Eph 2:1), and consequently, “from the beginning” is referring to the beginning of Life as a result of the Incarnate One, God in Man, redeeming us.
* which we have heard, *
“— in the perfect tense, denoting the still abiding effects of the hearing —.”
John said, “Guys, We heard Him! We heard Jesus, the very Son of God!” Vincent says that the Greek denotes that all those years later what John, and the other eyewitnesses, had heard still had an abiding effect on them.
* which we have seen with our eyes, *
UBS agrees with Vincent concerning “we have heard,” and “we have seen,” when it mentions,
“The verbs are both in the perfect tense, showing that the reference is to an event in the past that is still effective in the present.”
Again, the idea is that what John, and the others, saw with their very own eyes a long time (perhaps sixty, or more, years) before this Epistle was written was still impacting their lives all those years later.
It was their ears that heard Him, and it was their eyes that saw Him. This wasn’t hearsay that John was writing about. He was there!
* which we have looked upon, *
Wuest translates this portion of this verse as follows,
“that which we gazed upon as a spectacle,”
“Repetition with the aorist middle indicative of theaomai (the very form in John 1:14),” [This phrase is translated “we beheld” in that verse]
He then quotes another Commentator,
“‘a spectacle which broke on our astonished vision’ (D. Smith).”
Vine has this to say,
“to behold, view attentively, contemplate.”
John is now telling his readers that those who were privileged, along with Him, to follow the Lord Jesus, to really get to know Him, didn’t simply “see” Him. They gazed upon Him with the intention of seeing absolutely everything they could see. They examined Him thoroughly with their eyes. They had never seen anyone else like Him, and consequently, they studied the One Who was among them.
* and our hands have handled, *
Wuest translates this portion of this verse this way,
“and our hands handled with a view to investigation,”
The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary [JFB] comments,
“a series rising in gradation. Seeing is a more convincing proof than hearing of; handling, than even seeing. “Have heard . . . have seen” (perfect tenses), as a possession still abiding with us.”
“perhaps a reference to the Resurrection appearances– Luke 24:39; John 20:24-29.”
“We touched this Guy,” he’s saying, “and we did it with the idea of investigating the genuineness of His claims.” They heard the words coming out of His mouth. They saw almost everything He did for over three years. They gazed upon Him intently. They touched Him, even after the resurrection. In doing so they verified that He was the crucified One, Who was now the resurrected One!
This phrase, “and our hands have handled,” was probably aimed at the Gnostic heresy among them. The false teachers from this group claimed that Jesus had never come in the flesh. Here John disputes that. Jesus not only came in the flesh, but John touched Him before, and after, the resurrection. The post-resurrection “handling” of Him would be what occurred when Jesus “shewed unto them his hands and his side” (John 20:19-28). At that time they were “handling” Him, as Wuest suggests, “with a view to investigation.”
* of the Word of life; *
“Better, as Rev., concerning the Word.”
UBS, concerning “Word of life,” comments,
“The construction expresses that the first noun is equated with, or qualified by, the second; hence, ‘the Word which is life,’ or ‘the Word which gives life,’ ‘the Word which causes people to live,’ ‘the Word, the life,’ are possible renderings of this phrase.”
“That which was from the beginning, —— concerning (Vincent) the Word of life.” In other words, that which was from the beginning is the Word of life, which on every level is the Lord Jesus Christ.
John was saying, “In the person of Jesus we heard the Word of Life, and it’s still impacting our lives (Vincent), we saw the Word of Life, and it’s still impacting our lives (Vincent), we gazed intently upon the Word of Life as though He were a spectacle (Wuest), and with our hands we handled the Word of Life with the intention of investigating Him fully (Wuest).”
Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1).
Jesus is the Word of Life (current verse). As the God-Man, He (our Example) lived by the Word (Matt 4:4). In other words, Life is in the Word!
Jesus is the Word of creation (John 1:3; 1 Cor 8:6).
Jesus is the Word that holds all things together (Heb 1:3; Col 1:17).
Jesus is Life (John 11:25; 14:6; Col 3:4), and when we have Him in our lives we have Life (1 John 5:12) Himself.
(Verse One of Chapter One in my own words.)
Jesus, the Word of Life, Who, from the beginning, we have heard, and still hear in our minds; we have seen with our eyes, and still see in our mind’s eye; we gazed upon Him intently; and we handled Him, with the intention of investigating His claims, after His resurrection.
1 John 1:2
(For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)
* (For the life was manifested, *
Concerning “manifested,” Robertson says,
“to make known what already exists, whether invisible (B. Weiss) or visible, ‘intellectual or sensible.’”
Strong’s has it,
“to render apparent (literally or figuratively).”
Concerning this phrase Vincent comments,
“Corresponding with the Word was made flesh (John 1:14). The two phrases, however, present different aspects of the same truth. The Word became flesh, contemplates simply the historic fact of incarnation. The life was manifested, sets forth the unfolding of that fact in the various operations of life. The one denotes the objective process of the incarnation as such, the other the result of that process as related to human capacity of receiving and understanding it.”
The Apostle’s teaching us that when the Lord Jesus came, He Who was “from the beginning,” Life came. God manifested this Life (rendered it apparent) in the incarnation. John says he heard it, he saw it, and he handled it. He might have been thinking, “I thought I knew something about life, but then Life came. Life was rendered apparent before me. Then I realized that I had known absolutely nothing about life up until that very point of time.”
John was dead (dead in sin) when he met Life. You and I were dead until we met Life. When Life comes everything changes, as we’ll see in the next verse.
NOTE: John later tells us that it hasn’t yet been manifested (rendered apparent) what we shall be, but informs us that when Jesus is fully manifested (rendered apparent) to us we will be like Him because we’ll see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). In other words, God’s eternal purpose for our lives, that purpose being to conform us to the image of His Son (Rom 8:29), will be fully realized when we no longer see Jesus “through a glass, darkly” (1 Cor 13:12), but we see Him “as he is.” In the meanwhile, our ongoing spiritual growth is dependent on what we currently “see” in regards to Who Jesus is, because we are being changed “into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor 3:18). The more we “see” of Who Jesus is, the more we are conformed to His image by the working of the Holy Spirit. With that in mind, is it any wonder that the New Testament writer who saw the most, being the only one who was at the cross, screamed the loudest about the relentless love of God? We’ll see this clearly in this Epistle.
* and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you *
Concerning “shew,” Thayer says,
“to bring tidings (from a person or a thing), bring word, report; to proclaim, to make known openly, declare.”
Vincent makes this comment,
“Three ideas in the apostolic message: experience, testimony, announcement.”
John repeats in this verse what he said in the previous verse, “we have seen,” but then adds, “and bear witness, and shew unto you.” “That which was from the beginning” (previous verse), is “the life” that “was manifested” (current verse), and John saw (experienced – Vincent) it, was now giving witness (testifying – Vincent) to it, and was showing (announcing to – Vincent) his readers the Truth about Christ, Who is that Life.
* that eternal life, *
“One of the superior qualities of this life is that sin, illness and death no longer exist. Consequently, the Greek term for eternal has also the semantic component of unending duration, but this, though important, is a secondary component. To express the primary component one can often best use such terms as, ‘true,’ ‘real,’ ‘full.’”
Vincent tells us,
“eternal, describes the life in its quality of not being measured by time, a larger idea than that of mere duration.”
Some modern translations render it as, “The infinite Life of God himself” (the Message), “the Life of the Ages” (the 1912 Weymouth New Testament), and “Life, the age-during” (1898 Young’s Literal Translation).
“This Life that was ‘from the beginning,’ that we heard, we saw with our own eyes, we intently looked at, and we handled, investigating His hands and side after His resurrection, thus verifying He was truly the One Who had died, but now was alive; this Life was unlike any other; it was eternal,” John was stating. He had seen it! He was now testifying to it! He was now proclaiming it!
NOTE: John had been at the very foot of the cross. He had seen a fuller manifestation of the relentless love of God than had the other New Testament writers. He saw Life die! But wait, he saw Life resurrected! He now understood; only the body of Life could die, because Life Himself was eternal. When he thought Life was dead, Life was in hell seizing the “keys of hell and of death” (Rev 1:18), winning the battle of eternity, spoiling “principalities and powers,” and making a show “of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Col 2:15). Having ascended to the Father He ever lives “to make intercession for” us, saving us “to the uttermost that come unto God by him” (Heb 7:25), and finishing the faith He authored in us (Heb 12:2), performing “until the day of Jesus Christ” the good work He has begun in us (Phil 1:6). Life intervened! Life endured! Life conquered! Life continues! Life intercedes! Life eternal!
* which was with the Father, *
UBS informs us,
“Was with indicates that the life and the Father ‘belonged together’”
Vincent adds his input,
“In living, active relation and communion with the Father. ‘The preposition of motion with the verb of repose involves eternity of relation with activity and life’ (Coleridge).”
The Bible Illustrator quotes N. Hardy, D. D., as saying,
“Christ the life: Christ, God-man, Mediator, is the life, that eternal life, in respect of His threefold offices of king, priest, and prophet. As prophet, He is the life by way of revelation, discovering this eternal life to us; as priest, by way of impetration; securing this eternal life for us; as king, by way of collation, conferring this eternal life on us.”
He Who was “from the beginning,” the Word of Life, Life manifested, Life eternal, the Lord Jesus Christ, entered this world as Man; the God-Man. He came from the Father. He had been eternally with the Father (John 1:1). Like the Father, each being God, He came forth, from the Father, to manifest Life to us.
* and was manifested unto us;) *
He ends this verse the way he started it, by telling us that Life was “manifested,” or “rendered apparent,” to us through the person of Jesus Christ. John had no idea of what life consisted of until he came face to face with Life Himself. John heard Him, saw Him with his own eyes, gazed upon Him, handled Him, with the intent of investigation, after His resurrection; then he testified of his experience and declared this Life, this eternal Life, to us.
(Verse Two of Chapter One in my own words.)
Jesus, Who is Life, was openly revealed to us in His glory, and we saw Him, and still see Him in our minds; and we share the revelation of Life with you; and declare unto you that Life is eternal in nature; and consequently, He was always with the Father, and the Father revealed Who His Son is to us.
1 John 1:3
That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
* That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you,*
The One that we heard, the One that we saw, the One that we gazed intently upon, and the One that we handled with our hands, is the very Word of Life (verse 1). We’ve seen this Life, we now testify to you concerning this Life, and we now declare to you that this Life is eternal Life (verse 2). This Life that we’ve seen and heard is what we’re declaring to you now (current verse).
Concerning “manifested” (from verse 2), Thayer says,
“1e) to become known, to be plainly recognized, thoroughly understood; 1e1) who and what one is.”
This word is twice translated “appear” in a later verse in this Epistle (1 John 3:2), with the second referring to the full manifestation of the Lord Jesus to His followers, where “we shall see him as he is.”
These first three verses of this Epistle are establishing the Apostle’s right to make certain statements that he’ll make in this letter. He’s not sharing hearsay with his readers, but is sharing that which he heard, he saw, he gazed upon, and he handled. More than that, he wasn’t simply a witness to a historical event. He didn’t just hear Him, see Him, gaze upon Him intently, and handle Him with a view towards investigating Him; God manifested His Son to John, and the others included in “we.” Because of the revelation given to Him through the manifestation of Christ he “thoroughly understood” Life, and “thoroughly understood” “who and what” Life “is.” John experienced Life eternal in every way, and was now declaring the Truth about this Life to his readers.
* that ye also may have fellowship with us: *
“This verse introduces the purpose of the letter: ‘that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.’”
Concerning “fellowship,” Zondervan goes on to comment,
“The Greek word rendered ‘fellowship’ (koinonia; GK G3126) occurs here and in v. 6. It is not easy to translate. Suggestions are ‘fellowship,’ ‘communion,’ ‘participation,’ ‘share a common life,’ and ‘partnership.’ Its root word means ‘common’ or ‘shared’ as opposed to ‘one’s own’ (koinos; GK G3123). The Greeks used this word group to describe partners in business, joint owners of a piece of property, or shareholders in a common enterprise. In the NT it refers to Christians who share a common faith (Phm 1:6), who share possessions (Acts 2:44; 4:32), or who are partners in the Gospel (Phil 1:5).”
“Fellowship (here and vv. 6 f), or ‘being fellows/partners/companions,’ refers to ‘being together,’ ‘doing something together,’ and ‘sharing something.’ The term should be understood in the light of such passages as John 15:1-8 and 1 Cor 12:12-31. It refers to the life the believers share with Christ and with one another.”
Vincent has this to offer,
“This word introduces us to one of the main thoughts of the Epistle. The true life in man, which comes through the acceptance of Jesus as the Son of God, consists in fellowship with God and with man. On the word, see on Acts 2:42; see on Luke 5:10. The verb” means “to come into fellowship, to be made a partner, to be partaker of, occurs 1Peter 4:13; 2John 1:11; Heb 2:14, etc. The expression here is stronger, since it expresses the enjoyment or realization of fellowship, as compared with the mere fact of fellowship.”
“Fellowship” is such an important Truth here that I wanted to share with you what some notable scholars have to say regarding this word. I agree with Zondervan’s assertion that the point of this Epistle is to encourage fellowship among believers, because spiritual fellowship essentially centers on the person of Jesus, and on His Father.
The Apostle’s telling his readers that he experienced Life, Life that God manifested to Him in the person of Jesus. As a result of that experience John would never be the same again. Something wonderful happened! He’s saying to his readers, “I’m telling you these things so that you might remember when you also experienced this Life, when you placed your trust in the person of the Lord Jesus as your Savior, and remember the Truth about this Life that you once held fast to, but that is now being distorted by the false teaching of the Gnostics. You need to “fellowship” with us again, “share in common” with us the wonderful Truths about Life that we; those who heard Him, those who saw Him, those who looked upon Him, and those who handled Him with our own hands; have shared with you in the past, and which I am about to remind you of again in this letter.
* and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. *
Concerning “our,” Vincent gives us this insight,
“Ours (possessive instead of personal pronoun) indicating fellowship as a distinguishing mark of Christians rather than as merely something enjoyed by them.”
“This construction simply puts the Father and the Son side by side, but it probably means to say that the fellowship with the Father is the ultimate goal (mentioned first, therefore), and that this goal is to be reached through fellowship with the Son (cp. 1 John 2:23).”
“There can be no fellowship with the Father or with the Son that is not based on apostolic witness. So John stresses ‘fellowship with us’ as having priority in time.”
The Gnostic teachers of heresy were denying the Truth of the incarnation. In doing so they were denying the Truth about the Son or God, or denying the Son Himself (1 John 2:21-24; 4:3, 14-15), and consequently, their denying of the Son was evidence that they didn’t have the Father (1 John 2:23).
We who have experienced this Life, we who are Christians, have “fellowship” with one another, and this “fellowship” that we mutually enjoy “is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” You won’t discover this “fellowship” outside the sphere of walking in the Truth of the Gospel. The false teachers (Gnostics) were walking outside of this sphere of Truth, outside of the Light (next verse), and they, consequently, were outside of true “fellowship.” Those believers who were being deceived by the heresy of the Gnostics were seeing true Christian “fellowship” eroding in their lives. This Epistle is a calling back of those believers into a “fellowship” with John and the others, who were still living, who had experienced the manifestation of Life along with John. This was a calling back to a “fellowship” of Truth, a “fellowship” of Life.
(Verse Three of Chapter One in my own words.)
This Life that we’ve seen, and still see in our mind’s eye; and heard, and still hear in our minds; we now proclaim to you so that you can have this revelation of Life in common with us, because the Truth is that we now have Life in common with the Father, and with His Son, Jesus Christ.
1 John 1:4
And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
* And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. *
UBS tells us,
“Our is given inclusive force in some versions, but it is more in line with the structure of vv. 1-4 to take it as exclusive, referring to the group of eyewitnesses only, not including the persons addressed.”
In the twenty-four other translations of the New Testament that I looked at, besides the King James Version quoted here, seventeen of them translated it “our,” instead of “your,” and only seven of them agreed with the King James Version that it should be translated “your.” As you can see in the UBS notes above, the translators who render it “our” disagree rather that “our” includes only the “we” who are writing this, or if it also includes those being written to.
JFB reminds us,
“Christ Himself is the source, object, and center of His people’s joy (compare 1John 1:3, end); it is in fellowship with Him that we have joy, the fruit of faith.”
In verse two John writes that those who saw Life manifested were showing the readers of this Epistle what they had seen. In verse three he writes that they were declaring what they had seen and heard. The Greek word translated “shew” in verse two is the same word translated “declare” in verse three, and in both cases has the same tense, voice, and mood. (I have no idea why the translators translated it “shew” in one verse, and then “declare” in the very next.) Now in verse four he’s saying that they’re writing these things to them. In verses two and three they were declaring these things through the process of writing about them, now in this verse they explain the purpose of their declaring these things, “that your joy may be full,” or “that our joy may be full.”
Fullness of joy is found in the presence of the Lord (Psalms 16:11). They’re writing these things so that their readers can enjoy the fellowship they’ve found, which is fellowship with God, the Father, and God, the Son (verse three). In fellowship with God, in the presence of the Lord, there is “fullness of joy,” and there’s where “joy may be full.” We enter into this “fellowship” by receiving the Apostolic revelation of the manifestation of Life, Life in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. We understand that the manifestation of Life given to them was for our benefit, so that we might believe in the Life that they heard, that they seen with their own eyes, that they gazed upon intently, and that they handled with their hands for the purpose of investigating that Life. Christ is Life! Life is found in Christ! Therefore the fellowship that believers enjoy, the fellowship with the Father and Son, the fellowship with Life, is found in Christ, Who is our Life (Col 3:4).
(Verse Four of Chapter One in my own words.)
We’re declaring these things to you by writing them in this Epistle so that our (or, your) joy might be completed by your sharing in this revelation of Life, having that in common with us.
1 John 1:5
This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
* This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, *
The Greek word for “message” is “epangelia,” and is found fifty-three times in the New Testament; and in every other instance it’s translated “promise” in the King James Bible.
When Vincent comments on this Greek word, translated “promise,” in his notes concerning the “promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4), he says,
“epangelian (NT:1860). Signifying a free promise, given without solicitation. This is the invariable sense of the word throughout the New Testament, and this and its kindred and compound words are the only words for promise in the New Testament. Hupischneomai, meaning to promise ‘in response to a request,’ does not occur” (Acts 1:4).
If this Greek word is translated “promise” in every other instance then why is it translated “message” here?
On the word used in this verse Vincent comments,
“epangelia (NT:1860). This word, however, is invariably used in the New Testament in the sense of promise. The best texts read angelia (NT:31), ‘message,’ which occurs only at 1 John 3:11.”
Robertson concurred with Vincent when he said,
“angelia (NT:31). An old word (from angelos (NT:32), messenger), in the New Testament only here and 1 John 3:11.”
Robertson, in agreement with Vincent, was indicating that the Greek word “apangelia” is not the one John used, but that “angelia” is. If they’re correct, then the translation “message” is the correct one. Almost all translations of this verse use the word “message.”
Concerning “message [angelia],” Thayer says,
“message, announcement, news; a proclamation, command, order,”
and concerning “declare,” he says,
“to announce, make known; to report, bring back tidings, rehearse.”
Regarding “declare,” Strong mentions,
“From G303 and the base of G32; to announce (in detail).”
If “message” is the correct translation, if “angelia” is the Greek word used by John, then the Greek words for “message” and “declare” are related. In that case the Apostle is saying that he’s announcing to his readers what God has announced to him. That would certainly make sense. Also, “God is Light!” sounds more like a “message; an announcement of fact” than it does a “promise.”
* that God is light, *
“The predicate noun light indicates quality; hence, ‘God has as quality light,’ ‘God, light (is) his being.’ But the intended meaning is in some cases better expressed by another construction, cp. for example, ‘God lights’ (verb, meaning ‘functions as daylight’), ‘there is only light in the presence of God.’”
“The message that ‘God is light’ needs to be compared with declarations elsewhere by John that ‘God is spirit’ (Jn 4:24) and ‘God is love’ (1Jn 4:8). All three stress the immateriality of God and the ‘Godness’ of God–i.e., God in his essence. Light emphasizes especially the splendor and glory of God, the truthfulness of God, and his purity.”
Vincent points out,
“Not a light, nor the light, with reference to created beings, as the light of men, the light of the world, but simply and absolutely God is light, in His very nature.”
He goes on to say,
“The expression is not a metaphor. ‘All that we are accustomed to term light in the domain of the creature, whether with a physical or metaphysical meaning, is only an effluence of that one and only primitive Light which appears in the nature of God’ (Ebrard). Light is immaterial, diffusive, pure, and glorious. It is the condition of life.”
“No one tells us so much about God as John does. He is spirit (John 4:24); he is light (1 John 1:5); and he is love (1 John 4:8). These statements concern what God is, not what he does. Thus, light is his very nature. Holiness is the principal idea, and its use here at the beginning of the epistle lays the foundation for the Christian ethics of the letter.”
John sees God as Life (John 1:4; 14:6; 1 John 1:1-2), as Light (current verse; John 8:12; 9:5; Rev 21:23), and as Love (1 John 4:8); and sees the manifestation of God as these three things revealed in the person of His Son, Jesus, Who is “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person” (Heb 1:3); and consequently, Jesus could say that “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9).
In the first Chapter of the Gospel of John we see Jesus as the Word (John 1:1); we see that in Him, in the Word, is Life (John 1:4); and we see that “the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). We see that the Light “shineth in darkness” and “the darkness comprehended it not” (John 1:5). We see that Jesus “was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9).
In this first Chapter of the First Epistle of John we see Jesus as the Word, the Word of Life (1 John 1:1); we see that that Life is eternal in its’ essence, and that it was manifested to John, and those who were with him (1 John 1:2); and we see that the Life, Who is God, is Light (current verse). We see that in this Light is no darkness (current verse), and that we can’t have fellowship with Him Who is the Light if we’re walking in the darkness (1 John 1:6).
In other words, here’s John’s doctrine: Jesus is the Word; the Word is the Life; the Life is the Light; and the Light gives light to mankind; and consequently, those who choose to walk in the Light cannot walk in darkness.
* and in him is no darkness at all.*
Vincent informs us,
“It is characteristic of John to express the same idea positively and negatively. See John 1:7-8,20; 3:15,17,20; 4:42; 5:24; 8:35; 10:28; 1 John 1:6,8; 2:4,27; 5:12. According to the Greek order, the rendering is: ‘And darkness there is not in Him, no, not in any way.’”
“strong negation; Greek, ‘No, not even one speck of darkness.’”
John will go on in the following verses to demonstrate what he means by this statement.
(Verse Five of Chapter One in my own words.)
This is the message concerning the Word of Life, the Eternal Life, that we heard Him (and still hear Him in our heart) speak to us, and that we now announce to you; God, the Life, is in His very nature Light, and there is not even a speck of darkness in Him.
1 John 1:6
If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
* If we say *
UBS tells us,
“We. The opinion quoted is that of the false teachers (see Introduction), who have found adherents among the persons whom the author is addressing. He might have said, ‘if a man says,’ ‘if you say,’ or even ‘if some among you say,’ but he prefers to use what one commentator has called ‘the preacher’s we,’ the use of which is not only a matter of tact, particularly appropriate where error has to be corrected, but also belongs to the language of the Church as a fellowship. Accordingly, we has inclusive force here. The same holds true of the other occurrences of the pronoun of the first person plural throughout 1 John 1:5-2:11.”
“John introduces the first of three tests of Christian faith by the clause ‘If we claim.’ He uses this device to refer to false claims made by the false teachers.”
* that we have fellowship with him, *
Three verses earlier John had written that his desire was that his readers would have fellowship with him, and that his fellowship was “with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). Now, in this verse, he’s saying that if such a claim is made, “that we have fellowship with him,” but our actions aren’t reflecting the subsequential results of that fellowship, then our claims must not be believed.
* and walk in darkness, we lie, *
Regarding “walk,” Vincent comments,
“‘Walk’ peripatoomen (NT:4043), is, literally, ‘walk about’; indicating the habitual course of the life, outward and inward.”
“Hebrew for, to live; to regulate one’s life; to conduct one’s self; to pass one’s life.”
Here’s the point: it’s impossible to have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness because “in him is no darkness at all” (last verse).
Certainly, as many writers will tell us, walking in darkness is synonymous with walking in sin. However, John sees it in a more specific way, a way that then produces a walking in sin. John sees walking in darkness as walking in hatred, and walking in the Light as walking in Love (1 John 2:9-11).
The Scripture shows us that walking in Love causes “all the law” to stand fully obeyed in us (Gal 5:14) [see Wuest’s notes on that verse]. Loving God and loving people causes us to walk out, by nature, the things the moral Law of God teaches. In other words, the root cause of sin is our not walking in Love, so it’s that level of our walk that John sees as walking in darkness.
The Apostle tells us that if we claim to have fellowship with God, and yet we’re not walking in the Love of God, we are liars. He says later that if we claim to abide in Him that we ought to walk like He walked (1 John 2:6). This Epistle is about God’s relentless Love for us, and if we’re abiding in Him then we ought to be walking in the same love that the Lover of our soul is walking in. If we’re not, then we’re walking in darkness, and our claims are lies.
* and do not the truth: *
Concerning walking “in darkness,” Zondervan mentions,
“the author indicates that the test of truth is not one’s belief–though that is not excluded–but one’s action, deeds, and conduct. Speaking the truth is only one part of doing the truth, and not the most important part.”
UBS informs us,
“The phrase is formed in imitation of a Hebrew idiom. Similar constructions of the verb ‘to do’ followed by an abstract noun occur rather often in this Letter, cp. ‘to do the will of God’ (1 John 2:17), ‘to do righteousness’ (1 John 2:29; 3:7,10), ‘to do sin’ (1 John 3:4,8 f), ‘to do lawlessness’ (1 John 3:4), ‘to do what is pleasing before him’ (1 John 3:22), ‘to do his commandments’ (1 John 5:2). The idiom serves to express regular action in accordance with the quality inherent in the noun (cp. TT on 1 John 3:4).”
Vincent tells us,
“All walking in darkness is a not doing of the truth. ‘Right action is true thought realized. Every fragment of right done is so much truth made visible’ (Westcott).”
When we walk in darkness, which is walking in the absence of His Love towards someone, the Truth is not being done in our lives. It doesn’t matter how proficient we are at orthodoxy, how “good” we are at worship, how faithful we are to witness for Him, how consistent we are in the arena of good conduct, and how faithful we are to avoid bad conduct; it doesn’t matter how faithful we are in tithing, or in attending church; the Truth is not being done in our lives.
Jesus never said, “By this shall all men know that you’re my disciples; if you understand doctrine, if you participate in corporate worship, if you testify, if you develop good habits and cast aside bad ones, if you faithfully donate your money to My service, or if you are a really faithful attendee to church.” He did say, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35). Anything short of this and we’re not doing “the truth” (current verse).
The false teachers who were misleading some in the Church (the Gnostics) were claiming fellowship with the Father, but weren’t walking the way the Father, in the person of His Son, walked. Their doctrine allowed for arrogance, for superiority, for condescendence towards others, for hatred towards those who weren’t as “enlightened” as they thought they were. John tells us that they weren’t doing the Truth.
NOTE: Any doctrine that we hold to that allows us to think less of those who aren’t holding to the same doctrine is a lie. We’re only doing the Truth when we love in the way that He loved, a way that’s based on who we are in Christ, and not on the merit of the one we love.
(Verse Six of Chapter One in my own words.)
If we say, or anyone else says, that we’re in a state of fellowship with God, and yet we’re walking in darkness, in the state of the absence of Love, we’re lying; and we’re not doing the Truth, the walking out of Who God is supposed to be in our lives.
1 John 1:7
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
* But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, *
“ALFORD notices, Walking in the light as He is in the light, is no mere imitation of God, but an identity in the essential element of our daily walk with the essential element of God’s eternal being.”
“God is forever and unchangeable in perfect light. Compare Psa_104:2; 1Ti_6:16. We walk, advancing in the light and by means of the light to more light.”
God is Light, and any and all darkness is alien to Him (1 John 1:5). Since there’s no darkness in Him if we say we have fellowship with Him, but walk in darkness, we’re lying (1 John 1:6). However, we have fellowship with Him, or share this in common with Him; the walking in, the living in, the existing in the Light; when we walk in the Light (current verse).
We’re to walk in the Light, which is, according to Vincent’s comments on the last verse, to have as the habitual course of our lives the conduct that is implied by that walk. Walking in the Light signifies the habitual doing of all that’s good, and the constraint that produces these actions in us is the Love of God (1 John 2:10). In other words, walking in the Light is walking in the Love of God; and walking in that Light as He is in the Light, or walking in that Love as God is Love (1 John 4:8).
When we are in the sphere of walking in this Light; Who is God, Who is Love; we are walking in His Love, and the Law stands fully obeyed in us (see my notes on the previous verse). In those moments when the Love of God is controlling our lives the moral Law of God is being fully obeyed by us, and the Law is not necessary (Gal 5:14, 22-23; 1 Timothy 1:9-10) because a greater power constrains us (Gal 5:13). In this Light, in this Love, our vision is clear, and we can walk without stumbling, and without causing others to stumble (John 11:9-10; 1 John 2:9-11). Outside of this Light, outside of this Love, we are blinded by the darkness that is hatred, and we can’t see where we’re going. If we’re to do that which is good then we must see where we’re going; we must walk in this Light, this Light that is Love.
* we have fellowship one with another, *
UBS tells us,
“At first sight one might expect here, ‘we have fellowship with God.’ But that was not what was required by the situation confronting John. The false teachers whose opinions he is quoting and refuting in these verses boasted of their fellowship and communion with God, but they neglected the fellowship with men (cp. the Introduction). John wants to remind them that they cannot have fellowship with God unless they have fellowship with other Christians.”
Earlier John told his readers that he, and the others, were sharing what they had seen and heard so “that ye also may have fellowship with us.” He then said that their fellowship was “with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). In this Light, in His Love, where’s there’s fellowship with God, there’s also fellowship with one another.
UBS informs us,
“The verb form we have is in the present tense. This is to indicate that the reference is to a reality existing at the moment of speaking.”
When we walk in His Love we enjoy one another. Why? We reject bitterness (Heb 12:15) because we forgive one another (Eph 4:32; Col 3:13), because we’re not easily provoked (1 Cor 13:5), because we bear all things and endure all things (1 Cor 13:7). In the Light we don’t seek our own (1 Cor 13:5) because we esteem others above ourselves (Phil 2:3). Consequently, we’re not arrogant (1 Cor 13:4), which makes us more enjoyable to others. In the Light there is Love, there is acceptance, and there is forgiveness one towards the other. Therefore, there is fellowship.
* and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. *
Concerning “Jesus Christ his Son,” Vincent comments,
“Omit Christ. The human name, Jesus, shows that His blood is available for man. The divine name, His Son, shows that it is efficacious.”
He then adds this insight,
“The expression, the blood of Jesus His Son, is chosen with a profound insight. Though Ignatius uses the phrase blood of God yet the word blood is inappropriate to the Son conceived in His divine nature. The word Jesus brings out His human nature, in which He assumed a real body of flesh and blood, which blood was shed for us.”
Concerning “cleanseth us from all sin,” JFB adds its thoughts that this cleansing is for sin that is
“daily contracted through the sinful weakness of the flesh, and the power of Satan and the world. He is speaking not of justification through His blood once for all, but of the present sanctification (‘cleanseth’ is present tense) which the believer, walking in the light and having fellowship with God and the saints, enjoys as His privilege.”
Zondervan teaches us,
“Without Christ’s ongoing cleansing, enduring fellowship would be impossible, for the guilt resulting from sin destroys fellowship. The results of that cleansing are forgiveness, restoration, and the reestablishment of love. John’s use of the singular “sin” reminds us that the emphasis is not on specific sinful acts but on the work of God in Christ that meets and deals with the sin principle itself.”
Adam Clarke points out,
“The meritorious efficacy of his passion and death has purged our consciences from dead works, and cleanseth us, katharizei (NT:2511) heemas (NT:2248), continues to cleanse us, i.e., to keep clean what it has made clean (for it requires the same merit and energy to preserve holiness in the soul of man, as to produce it).”
Thayer shows us that “cleanseth,” (katharizo) is in the present tense, and that the present tense of the Greek word
“The present tense represents a simple statement of fact or reality viewed as occurring in actual time.”
As the great hymn puts it,
“What can wash away our sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”
The Amplified Bible tells us in Ephesians 5:13,
“But when anything is exposed and reproved by the light, it is made visible and clear; and where everything is visible and clear there is light.”
In this Light everything is exposed. The condemnation of the world is that men prefer darkness to the Light because “their deeds” are “evil” (John 3:19), and consequently, they shun the Light because it exposes and reproves their sins (John 3:20).
When we come to the Light all is exposed! Our actions are seen for what they really are! Our motives come to light! Our thoughts are suddenly laid bare! Nothing remains hidden! All is “naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb 4:13)! Why chance it? How do we discover the courage needed to run to the Light? The courage is found in the Truth of the Gospel, the Truth that reveals that in the very Light that exposes our sin we discover that “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” In this Light our sin is both exposed and cleansed! Thank God for His marvelous grace!
In this Light that is pure Love we who are privileged to be called the children of God, as the result of God’s Love for us and the gift of His Love to us (1 John 3:1), are being constantly cleansed from all sin. As Zondervan told us (in the above note), fellowship with God and man would be impossible if this wasn’t fact. Remember with joy that reconciliation to a Holy God is only made possible because, as a result of the Lord Jesus dying for us at Calvary, our Heavenly Father has ceased “imputing” our “trespasses unto” us (2 Cor 5:19). Because we are His children HE NO LONGER COUNTS OUR SINS AGAINST US!
How can a Just God do this? He can do it because “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” His blood has been applied to all who trust in Him, and that blood not only cleanses us at the moment of our conversion, but continues to cleanse us every moment of every day.
This news is too good for some to believe. They see it as too radical. They are trapped in the theology that tells them that every time they sin they “fall from grace,” and are “lost” until they ask for God’s forgiveness for that sin, and only then are they restored to the state of salvation. In other words, if they were to die before they asked for forgiveness they would go to Hell. That doctrine teaches that we’re saved, then we’re not saved. We’re saved again, then we’re not saved again. We’re saved again, then we’re not saved again. And so it goes, on and on and on and on. In their thinking their only hope of going to Heaven is that they die, or the Rapture occurs, at a time when they have absolutely no unconfessed sin in their lives. The arrogance of that doctrine is that it implies that there are times when our conduct is such that God would be proud to accept us into Heaven, on the merit of that conduct, even thought the Scripture tells us that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6). The Truth of Scripture is that we’re only saved as a result of the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus, and thank God that that blood is constantly cleansing us.
(Verse Seven of Chapter One in my own words.)
But if we walk, if we live, if we abide in Him; He Who is the Light, the Light that is Love; if that Light that God dwells in is where we walk, we will have that fellowship with one another that results from our walking in His Love, and the blood that the Lord Jesus shed for us will continuously cleanse us from all sin.
1 John 1:8
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
* If we say that we have no sin, *
As we saw when I quoted UBS in my earlier notes (1 John 1:6), they believe that verses 6, 8, and 10 reflect what errors of Gnostic teaching John is correcting. In other words, those false teaching Gnostics were claiming that they had fellowship with God even though they saw no need to walk in the Light (1 John 1:6), they were claiming that they had no sin in their lives (current verse), and they were claiming that they had never (perhaps since their conversion) sinned (1 John 1:10). They believed that only their spirit was saved and that, consequently, it didn’t matter what the flesh engaged in. Sin was a non-issue to them! Make bad choices regarding conduct and your saved spirit might even learn valuable lessons from it, so in the end, their “sin” was beneficial to them. John was saying, “they’re lying, and not walking in the Truth” (1 John 1:6), “they’re deceiving themselves, and the Truth isn’t in them” (current verse), and “They’re disagreeing with God, and therefore calling Him a liar; and God’s Word in not in them” (1 John 1:10).
“The second false claim by John’s opponents is that a Christian has no sin. The opponents probably did not claim that they had never committed wrongful acts, but they denied that the sin principle had lasting power over them or even had a presence in them, at least in those who had attained superior spiritual enlightenment. They were, after all, already perfect and free from guilt. It is not surprising that Gnostics, whether Christian or otherwise, should have denied sin. No human being, ancient or modern, wishes to understand existence under that rubric.
Others in John’s community may have argued, like some in Corinth, that sin was a matter of the flesh and had nothing to do with the spirit, or that since they possessed the spirit, they were beyond the categories of good and evil and therefore moral principles no longer applied to them.”
“That is, we have no personal guilt, no principle of sin. This some of the Gnostics held, since matter was evil and the soul was not contaminated by the sinful flesh.”
In the previous verse we saw that “in the light” there’s cleansing for our sins. In this verse John shows us that any denial of our need for that cleansing is based on error. However, it isn’t telling us that we lose our standing with God, our salvation, when we sin, and that we must repent before we die, or before the Rapture occurs, or we’ll go to Hell as a result of the unconfessed sin in our lives. On the contrary, the cleansing that occurs “in the light” is an ongoing cleansing (see my notes on the previous verse); it’s a cleansing that keeps God’s children in the state of being clean. We’re reconciled to God, and that reconciliation is a result of God’s no longer counting our sins against us (2 Cor 5:19); and that amazing blessing is ours as a result of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross (2 Cor 5:19-21).
The Truth of the Gospel is that we always stand in need of that ongoing cleansing because our righteousness, that righteousness that comes from the source of who we are, will always be as filthy rags when compared to the absolute standard of holiness that God requires; therefore, only “imputed” righteousness (Rom 4:11, 22-24; James 2:23) will stand the scrutiny of an all-knowing God; a righteousness that we only have when we place our faith in Christ (Rom 3:21-26; 5:19; 8:1-4; 10:3-4; 1 Cor 1:30; Phil 3:8-9). It’s that faith in God’s grace, his favorable disposition towards us, which saves us, and keeps us saved (Eph 2:8-9). It wasn’t our sudden abstinence from all sin that saved us, and it’s not our continued abstinence from all sin that keeps us. It was faith in the finished work of Calvary that saved us, and it’s faith in Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith (Heb 12:2), that keeps us saved (Gal 3:2-3).
The message here is that we all need cleansing from the filth that is sin, cleansing from our moral failures, and that to deny that is error; but the cleansing we receive isn’t the result of a new contrition, but of the ongoing work of Calvary. Calvary satisfied God’s justice, and enabled Him to “legally” no longer count our sins against us.
* we deceive ourselves, *
Concerning “we deceive ourselves,” JFB says,
“We cannot deceive God; we only make ourselves to err from the right path.”
Robertson points out,
“Present active indicative of planao, to lead astray. We do not deceive others who know us.”
1) We deceive ourselves when we think that we’re wise, but we’re walking outside of the wisdom of Christ (1 Cor 3:18-20).
2) We deceive ourselves when we think we’re something, not realizing that we’re actually nothing (Gal 6:3).
3) We deceive ourselves when we hear the Word of God, but we don’t implement what it’s teaching (James 1:22).
4) We deceive ourselves when we have the appearance of being religious but we’re careless with our tongues (James 1:26).
5) We deceive ourselves when we claim that we have no sin that we need to be cleansed from (current verse).
It’s tragic when the individual deceiving me turns out to be me! It’s tragic when the individual I’m deceiving turns out to be me! The above Scriptures show us that the deceiving of ourselves is altogether too common.
1) Do we ever think we’re wiser than we are?
2) Do we ever think ourselves more important than we are?
3) Do we ever know more Scripture than we walk in?
4) Do we ever try to appear spiritual, but we’re unkind with our words?
5) Do we ever think that sin isn’t an issue in our lives?
If the answer to any of these questions is “Yes!” then we’ve been guilty of deceiving ourselves.
* and the truth is not in us. *
Regarding “the truth,” Vincent tells us,
“The whole Gospel. All reality is in God.”
He also comments,
“Objectively. In the person of Christ. He is the Truth, the perfect revelation of God (John 1:18; John 14:6). His manhood is true to the absolute law of right, which is the law of love, and is, therefore, our perfect pattern of manhood.
Subjectively. The truth is lodged in man by the Spirit, and communicated to his spirit (John 14:17; John 15:26; John 16:13). It dwells in man (1 John 1:8; 1 John 2:4; 2 John 1:2), as revelation, comfort, guidance, enlightenment, conviction, impulse, inspiration, knowledge. It is the spirit of truth as opposed to the spirit of error (1 John 4:6). It translates itself into act.”
The Truth isn’t in us if we see any spiritual wealth in ourselves. Any evaluation that would cause us to feel good about our standing with God based on our spiritual accomplishments is void of Truth.
Truth tells us that, in and of ourselves, we are spiritually bankrupt [poor in spirit] (Matt 5:3). Truth tells us that, apart from Jesus, there is absolutely nothing good in us (Rom 7:18), because our “heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer 17:9), and sin dwells in our members (Rom 7:23). This sin principle at work in our fallen nature causes some of our good works to be tainted with wrong motives (Matt 6:1-5), and our God sees beyond our actions to “the thoughts and intents of the heart,” because there isn’t anything we do, any motive we have, any thought we think “that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb 4:12-13).
In the doing of our best to walk out the Truth we realize that our efforts are often tainted with the sin of failure, the sin of wrong motives, or the sin of imperfect reasoning, and we consequently rejoice in the constant cleansing we find “in the light” (1 John 1:7).
(Verse Eight of Chapter One in my own words.)
If we contend that we have no need of this continual cleansing because we insist that we have no sin (either, we have no sin because whatever we allow our flesh to do, rather good or bad, isn’t important because it doesn’t impact our redeemed spirit; or, we have no sin because we feel like we’re successfully keeping all the rules), we are playing the fool and deceiving ourselves, and the Truth of God; the Truth that is God, the Truth that is His Word, the Truth that is the Gospel; is not in us, is not a part of who we are.
1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
* If we confess our sins, *
Concerning “confess,” Vincent comments,
“Confess homologoomen (NT:3670). From homos (NT:3674), ‘one and the same,’ and legoo (NT:3004), ‘to say.’ Hence, primarily, ‘to say the same thing as another,’ and, therefore, ‘to admit the truth of an accusation.’”
Robertson tells us,
“If we confess ean (NT:1437) homologoomen (NT:3670). Third-class condition again with ean (NT:1437) and present active subjunctive of homologeoo (NT:3670), ‘if we keep on confessing.’”
A beautiful thing happens in the Light; we discover that “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). We’re walking in denial of the Truth, and consequently, we’re deceiving ourselves, when we say what is opposite to what He has said, that being that we have no need for this cleansing because we have not sinned (1 John 1:8). On the other hand, when we “say the same thing” [Vincent’s definition of “confess”] that God says, that we are in need of this cleansing because we have sinned, we are embracing Truth, and being true to ourselves (current verse).
The sin in our hearts finds expression in our words (Matt 12:34; James 3:1-10), our thoughts (Matt 15:19; Mark 7:21), and our actions (Matt 15:19; Mark 7:21-23). Sin isn’t simply doing the wrong thing; it’s also saying the wrong thing; it’s also thinking the wrong thing. It’s also the intention motivating our actions, our words, and our thoughts (Heb 4:12). On our best days we sin; if not with our actions, then with our words; if not with our words, then with our thoughts; if not with our thoughts, then with our intentions (motivations). We all need the continual cleansing provided us through the blood of the Lamb, and that cleansing is discovered in the Light! Let’s recognize that Truth! Let’s confess [admit that God is right] that Truth!
* he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, *
Concerning “faithful and just,” Zondervan claims,
“The force of God’s being ‘just’ (GK G1465) points to the Cross, to the covenant, to God’s rule over us, and to the attributes of God from which forgiveness flows. And certainly God’s mercy must not be set against his justice. The phrase ‘he is faithful and just’ includes all those things. It is a corollary of the fact that God is light and love.”
Regarding “faithful,” Vincent says,
“True to His own nature and promises; keeping faith with Himself and with man.”
Regarding “just,” JFB says,
“Not merely the mercy, but the justice or righteousness of God is set forth in the redemption of the penitent believer in Christ. God’s promises of mercy, to which He is faithful, are in accordance with His justice.”
Concerning “just,” Barnes claims,
“The word ‘just’ here cannot be used in a strict and proper sense, since the forgiveness of sins is never an act of justice, but is an act of mercy.”
Adding his insight regarding “just,” Clarke suggests,
“Christ has died for us, and thus made an atonement to the Divine justice; so that God can now be just, and yet the justifier of him who believeth in Jesus.”
In regards to, “to forgive,” UBS tells us,
“It has been pointed out that the majority of the renderings of this verb fall under three types. The first is based on the attitude or action of the one who forgives, for example, ‘to lose sin from the heart,’ ‘not to remember sin.’ The second is based on how the sins are dealt with, for example, ‘to carry away sins,’ and the third on legal terminology, for example, ‘to remit the punishment for sins.’ For further details see New Testament Wordbook, 66 f/39 f. Types (1) and (3) usually are the more satisfactory ones.”
What have you and I ever done to indebt God? What does He owe us? God asks the question “Who has given to Me that I should repay him” (Job 41:11 NAS)? If God isn’t indebted to us then why does justice demand that He forgive us? Adam Clarke has the right idea. Justice does demand that we be forgiven, in spite of Barnes’ comments. Not because we have indebted God, but because His Son, the Lord Jesus, has done everything the Father asked Him to, and has satisfied the justice of God. The debt has been paid! Sin must be forgiven! For Christ’s sake [KJV], in Christ [NIV], God forgives us! Justice demands it! Faithfulness decrees it! Jesus paid it all!
Because we were “still weak” [NRSV], because we were “powerless” [NIV], because we were “utterly helpless” [TLB], because we had no way to rescue ourselves, the Lord Jesus died for us (Rom 5:6). We are forgiven because His Love for us constrained Him, driving Him to the cross to die for us so that we could live for Him. The Father owed us nothing, but willingly allowed Himself to be indebted to His Son, Who “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb 12:2), that He might take away the sins of the world (John 1:29).
* and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. *
Zondervan tells us, concerning the words “forgive” and “purify” [the NIV translation of the Greek word translated “cleanse” in the KJV],
“The verb used for ‘forgive’ (GK G918) has at its roots the idea of the ‘cancellation of debts’ or the ‘dismissal of charges.’ The verb used for ‘purifies’ (GK G2751) pictures an act of cleansing from the pollution of sin so that a new life of holiness may begin. Sinners are perceived as cleansed from moral imperfections and from the injustices that separate them from God.”
Concerning “cleanse,” JFB says,
“purify from all filthiness, so that henceforth we more and more become free from the presence of sin through the Spirit of sanctification (compare Heb 9:14; and above, see on 1John 1:7).”
When we confess, when we say the same thing about us that God says about us, when we agree with God that we are sinners standing in need of cleansing, when we confess our sins we find ourselves in the Light, and we discover the continual cleansing of the blood of Jesus purifying us from the filth of all our unrighteousness. How much unrighteousness are we cleansed from? All of it! We are not only cleansed, but we are continuously cleansed. Our past sins are forgiven! Our current sins are forgiven! Our future sins are forgiven! How can I make such a claim? Paul assures us that God is no longer counting our sins against us (2 Cor 5:19). As believers we’re in the Light, and in the Light we experience the joy of knowing that the blood of Jesus Christ is constantly cleansing us, constantly keeping us in the state of cleanliness in our stance before God. In other words, we’ve experienced justification, the state of being legally pronounced “right” with God. That’s the state of existence that we now find ourselves in. Thank God Almighty! We are loved! We are forgiven! We are accepted!
(Verse Nine of Chapter One in my own words.)
If we acknowledge that God’s assessment of us is correct, that we are indeed guilty of sin, and stand in need of cleansing, and we come to the Light; God is faithful to Himself, to His Son, to His Word, and in the spirit of justice, the justice demanded by the sacrifice of His Son, He forgives us; and He cleanses us from all the filth of our sins, from our unrighteousness, and continues to cleanse us, thereby keeping us in the state of spiritual cleanliness.
1 John 1:10
If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
* If we say that we have not sinned, *
“The perfect tense shows that the reference is to the result of an act in the past. The clause states that ‘we’ have never actually done anything sinful, and consequently are free from the resulting guilt. As such it differs from v. 8 a which refers to the quality of sinlessness.”
Robertson informs us,
“Perfect active indicative of hamartanō. This is a denial of any specific acts of sin, while in 1Jo_1:8 we have the denial of the principle of sin.”
Concerning the statement “If we say that we have no sin” (1 John 1:8), and this statement, “If we say that we have not sinned” (current verse), Zondervan tells us,
“The latter statement is more inclusive. The persons involved could be saying, “Whatever is true about the sin principle in others, we as Gnostic believers have transcended it all. We do not sin! We have not sinned! Sin has gained no foothold in us.’”
If you study the Commentators’ notes concerning the purpose of this Epistle you’ll see that a cultic group called the Gnostics was teaching the error of license, “Go ahead and sin, it doesn’t matter.” They taught that since only the spirit of man is redeemed it doesn’t matter what the flesh does. They felt no guilt for engaging in any act that you and I would consider sin, believing that the spiritual enlightenment they entered into freed them from the sin principal, and they were, therefore, incapable of being guilty of sin. “Anything goes;” they claimed, “when we engage in acts others might consider sin, it allows our redeemed spirit to learn valuable truth, causing our level of enlightenment to continue to grow. You who are not at our level of enlightenment can’t possibly understand what we who ‘see’ understand.”
Utter foolishness! Isn’t it amazing that in the middle of the first century Paul was writing Epistles to correct the error of legalism (the teaching that leaves us thinking that most of the things we do outside of the realm of our dedication and abstinence are sin), but now at the end of that century John has to write an Epistle to correct the error of license (the teaching that you can do about anything you choose to do and it isn’t sin). Paul taught that we live by the power of grace instead of the powerlessness of rules, but by the end of that century many had perverted that Truth and had turned “the grace of our God into lasciviousness” (Jude 1:4). The error of license was on the increase. John wrote this Epistle to correct that error.
* we make him a liar, *
Zondervan offers this thought,
“This latter statement, in other words, is far more blatant and defiant. It makes a mockery of the Gospel. It states that the reason God acted in grace and mercy toward us for the sake of our sins is false, that God first deceived us about ourselves and then becomes himself the Deceiver.”
Matthew Henry claims,
“The denial of our sin not only deceives ourselves, but reflects dishonor upon God. It challenges his veracity. He has abundantly testified of, and testified against, the sin of the world.”
When we find some way to claim that we haven’t sinned, rather it’s by embracing the foolishness of the Gnostic doctrine (the teaching that the conduct of the flesh is totally irrelevant), or by claiming that we no longer sin (the teaching that our obedience to all the rules of proper conduct is complete), we are claiming that the teachings of Scripture, the Word of God, regarding our sinfulness is a lie. In other words, we are calling God a liar. However, Paul emphatically states that we should let “God be true, but every man a liar” (Rom 3:4).
* and his word is not in us. *
Zondervan tells us,
“The statement ‘his word has no place in our lives’ means that the word proclaimed, the tradition received, and the witness from the OT Scriptures have no place in the heart and conscience of those who deny their sin. Consequently the possibility of hearing a redemptive word is also denied, and one can neither live by the Word nor receive forgiveness offered by God.”
Vincent adds his insight to this discussion,
“Not the personal Word, as John 1:1, but the divine message of the Gospel. See Luke 5:1; Luke 8:11; Acts 4:31; Acts 6:2, Acts 6:7, etc. Compare ‘the truth is not in us’ (1John 1:8). The truth is the substance of the word. The word carries the truth. The word both moves the man (John 8:31, John 8:32) and abides in him (John 5:38; John 8:37). The man also abides in the word (John 8:31).”
When our statements of “fact,” those things we say that we insist are the truth, are different from the statements of fact contained in the Word of God, then it’s evident that God’s Word has not become a part of us; it isn’t “in us.” God’s Word is the Truth. If His Word isn’t in us (current verse), then the Truth isn’t in us (1 John 1:8). It doesn’t matter how enlightened we think we are; it doesn’t matter what we think we know; if we don’t agree with God’s Word then that Word isn’t in us, and the things we “know” aren’t the Truth. There’s no enlightenment outside of the revealed Truth of Scripture.
Truth is discovered only through our continuing in His Word, that Truth discovered brings us freedom (John 8:31-32), and the freedom we find is freedom from a life of servitude to sin, a servitude reflected in our habitually committing acts of sin (John 8:33-36). The Gnostics taught that “acts of sin” committed in our flesh weren’t sin at all because the flesh is unredeemed, and therefore, it’s perfectly acceptable to commit these acts. John teaches us that this kind of doctrine has no basis in the Word, and that those who teach it don’t have the Word in them.
(Verse Ten of Chapter One in my own words.)
If we say that none of our conduct is sinful, that none of our words are sinful, that none of our thoughts are sinful; we are denying the clear teachings of God’s Word, and by that action are guilty of calling God a liar; and we can’t deny what He says on the one hand, and claim that His Word is in us on the other.
Walk of Grace Chapel, Council Bluffs Church